AHMEDABAD: A protest against release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat in Gujarat turned violent on Tuesday evening when groups of people vandalised shops at a mall and a cinema hall in Ahmedabad and targeted vehicles parked. Nearly a dozen two-wheelers, many of them belonging to a fast-food chain, were gutted.
The fresh round of violence - police had to fire two shots in the air to disperse the mob - comes on a day state governments were ticked off by the Supreme Court for trying to cite law and order problems to block screening the movie set to be released on Thursday.
After the top court's unequivocal order, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria declared that the state was left with no option but to maintain law and order. In Haryana's Gurgaon, the district authorities have banned protests or large gatherings within 200 metre radius of cinema halls under Section 144 of the criminal procedure code.
Signs that the state governments might enforce law appeared to have led the Karni Sena and other Rajput associations to focus on persuading cinema hall owners to decline to screen the movie voluntarily. In most cities of Rajasthan where the protests against the 190-crore movie had originated, Karni Sena said they were reaching out to cinema hall owners to give the movie a pass.
Maharashtra minister Jaykumar Rawal appeared to back this line. He appealed to people not to watch the film because, as he put it, the filmmaker had tampered with history to earn money.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, according to news agency Press Trust of India, said most theatre owners in the state had voluntarily decided not to screen the controversial movie.
Big Cinema, one of the two theatres attacked on Tuesday evening, was also one of them but it didn't help the theatre.
"We had put up boards saying we won't screen the film. Still the mall was attacked by a horde of men," the mall manager Rakesh Mehta said, according to news agency ANI.
There were also reports of protests targeting cinema halls from Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur and Madhya Pradesh.
In Kanpur, a police officer said some people barged into a cinema hall. "They tore film posters, damaged property and manhandled the mall staff," he told news agency PTI. Protests against the film were also held in Indore, Morena and Gwalior. Police had to use force in some places in Ujjain where the protesters turned violent.
A top Mumbai police official said makers of the film Monday approached the police, seeking security at multiplexes where the Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed period drama will open on January 25.
Police personnel will be stationed at cinemas from January 24 to 26 to ensure the film releases smoothly and any attempt to disrupt its screening is foiled in Mumbai, he said